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Traditions of Oahu

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Sharks Stories of Ko'olauloa


mano: shark
See Also...
  Genealogy & Birth
  Battles with 'Olopana
'Olopana Victory
  Kane and Kanaloa

On O'ahu there lived a woman who was noted for her ability to catch squid, of which the chiefs of high rank were fond. Any person who could catch a lot of squid was in demand. One day a great luau was to be given by a chief, and he wanted some squid, so he sent some of his men in search of someone who could catch squid. They brought the woman to him. He told her he wanted squid from a certain reef and asked her if she could catch some for him. She said she could catch all he wanted. She went down to the beach at the place designated by the chief, but before she entered the water, an old man met her. He told her the rules of the place: she was supposed to catch only a certain number and when she had caught that number she should go home, or something would be sure to happen to her. She called for her daughter, who had followed her, and told her daughter to come with her into the water. Another thing the old man told her was to go home when she said she would and not to stop for anything. The lady caught all she had been allowed by the old man, but she kept on fishing until she had more than she could handle. She sent her daughter to shore with half the load and told her she was going home, but instead she remained, for she saw a huge squid she wanted to get. Just then a large shark came and bit off her legs. She yelled for help. Her daughter came to her rescue, but too late. The woman died from the loss of blood and the shock. When the people examined her later, they found one deep gash on her right arm made by one of the shark's teeth. They knew that it was done by a shark who guarded that particular reef. After that incident they named the place Paumalu . (McAllister 151).

The name "Paumalu," a land section on O'ahu's North Shore including Sunset Beach, means "taken secretly or illegally."

Kawela Bay
J.D. Holt (from Recollections)
Off we went to the place in the reef where the sides slanted sharply to the bottom. Here we had to dive much deeper than before. Kai'a was old but extremely strong. He had dived all of his life and knew how to get down to the bottom quickly, with little exertion. I clung tightly to my old friend and kahu, and we passed through layers of sunlight in the water. I saw brilliant fish scattering in all directions around us. I was transfixed by the beauty but held on firmly to Kai'a, feeling his muscles and bones moving as he pulled his way to the bottom, following the steep ledge. It was darker down there, with shafts of light slipping through the cracks in the coral above and illuminating the sand in a dim glow. Then I saw these great living things lying on the bottom, rolling slowly from side to side in the lolling current. The sharks, apparently satiated by a previous feeding, were resting. We hovered about six feet above them for some time. They looked like tiger sharks and fish sharks with long tails. I was both exhilarated and terrified. My little legs jammed into Kai'a's sides and he understood. We shot to the surface, leaping out of the water like humpback whales. I remember being ready to burst just as we broke free. Once we were at the surface, I was relieved to see that no shark had followed us. We would dive down again and again. Afterwards, when we rested on the warm coral surface at the water's edge, Kai'a told me of the ali'i makua­the old sharks that had been living in the bay for ages and ages. They all had names, odd names, personal names that he had given them. One in particular he called Haku nui, the Big Boss. He also told me of one that had been young when he was just a boy himself. As we dove down again and again, I would learn to recognize these sharks as he had. Whatever fears I had were lessened. I began to really enjoy these plunges and the creatures; they became very real to me. Sometimes, with me on his back, Kai'a would go down and come up close to the older sharks and reach out slowly with a hand to pick off barnacles that had encrusted their eyes. Such a build up of barnacles could eventually blind the old animals. They somehow trusted him and allowed him to do the cleaning. The great yellow eyes stared at us, floating inches from us as Kai'a picked away at the hard material that was often covered with limu. It must have hurt the sharks at least a little. They moved around slowly like a herd of cattle in a corral. Kai'a jabbed at them and pushed them away in order to stay with the shark he was working on. It was quite unreal, hanging onto this white-bearded man shoving these large, dark creatures glaring at us. I would look up to the surface to see the brighter fish darting above, and the sky-blue of the surface and rolling waves. It was an ancient feeling, like something from Merlin's strange, enchanted world or the magical times of Pele and Hi'iaka. Sometimes the sharks moved away and swam to the surface. It was a habit they developed because fishermen fed them 'awa to pacify them in order to prevent them from interfering with the fishing boats. When the sharks surfaced, they were of a different color in the brighter light. With growths of barnacles and limu on their backs, they looked like islands emerging from the sea. After the sharks left, we stayed out in the water for hours, rarely if ever, talking. Once Kai'a told me that when he was fourteen or fifteen and had not slept with a woman, which meant he still had the mana of innocence, he was chosen as one of the youths to tie ropes of braided coconut fiber around the tail of a shark. The shark would be dragged out of the sea so that its skin could be used for making drums. I have never seen a reference to this particular practice of old Hawai'i, but Kai'a's mo'olelo was dependable.

Kahuku / Puna-mano Spring
S. Kuapuu
In Kahuku is a spring called Punamano and it was there that a man was destroyed by a shark. The shark was found when it was small by a man and a woman who went fishing at the beach with a draw net at night. They wanted to save the shark so they let it go free in the spring. On the bank of the spring, they planted a breadfruit tree. Later as the shark grew in size so did the breadfruit tree till it bore fruit. They wondered at the disappearance of the breadfruit, and thought that the fruits might have been blown down by the gusts of wind. Upon looking under the tree, they came to the conclusion that they must have been stolen for not one was found there. One day they wanted to go to the upland to farm but were a little worried about the breadfruits lest all be stolen by the thief. Therefore they spoke certain words in command to the shark, "We are going to the upland, so watch our breadfruit tree." They went up. The own brother of the woman who owned the shark was the one who went after the breadfruit as soon as they were gone and so he was killed. The man went to get some taro, lighted the imu and because he longed for roasted breadfruit he climbed the tree in secret. When he threw fruits down they rolled and fell into the spring. He descended and reached out into the spring but before he seized them, the shark leaped and devoured him. The sister returned with her husband from their farming and while on the plain love for her brother welled up in her, and it seemed as though he were dead. When they reached the brother's house, the imu and taro were seen there but he was not to be seen. Instead a new spring had ap peared near by, about ten fathoms from the shark's spring. There they saw the water reddened with blood and the man's cluster of love (scrotum) was also found there. It seemed as though there was a passage be neath from one spring to the other. The shark was never seen again after that. (Ka Hae Hawaii, March 2O, 1861, in Sterling and Summers 151)


mano-niho kahi: shark man

Near the water hole in Malaekahana, between La'ie and Kahuku, lived a man called Mano-niho-kahi ("Shark-with-one-tooth"), who was possessed of the power to turn himself into a shark. Mano-niho-kahi appeared as other men except that he always wore a kapa cloth which concealed the shark's mouth in his back. Whenever he saw women going to the sea to fish or to get limu (edible seaweed), he would call out, "Are you going into the sea to fish?" Upon hearing that they were, he would hasten in a roundabout way to reach the sea, where he would come upon them and, biting them with his one shark's tooth, kill them. This happened many times. Many women were killed by Mano-niho-kahi. At last the chief of the region became alarmed and ordered all the people to gather together on the plain. Standing with his kahuna, the chief commanded all the people to disrobe. All obeyed but Mano-niho-kahi. So his kapa was dragged off and there on his back was seen the shark's mouth. He was put to death at once and there were no more deaths among the women. (Rice, 111)

On June 10, 1993, surfer Jonathan Mozo was bitten on the feet by a large shark near Goat Island [Moku'auia] off Malaekahana. He escaped by paddling to shore. The wounds required thirty stitches on each foot. Kamakau mentions the tradition of a one-toothed shark name 'Unihokahi who belonged to "the waters of Kahaloa at Waikiki and Mokoli'i, at Hakipu'u and Kualoa in Ko'olaupoko." His bite was a warning of the approach of an enemy. See People 75.)


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